Morales wants higher judge salaries, bigger budget
Chief justice candidate Rafael Avelino Morales will focus on rendering judgments speedily by filling up vacancies in the judiciary if he were to take the post

MANILA, Philippines – To lecturer and lawyer Rafael Avelino Morales, the real objective of judicial reform is to provide speedy justice to the people.

“During my watch as chief justice, I would like the entire action reform to be implemented, especially in matters of case decongestion,” he said.

Morales was referring to the Action Program for Judicial Reform (APJR) formulated by former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr, which was established to improve various areas of the Supreme Court — mainly judicial system procedures, institutional development, human resources development, integrity infrastructure development, access to justice by the poor, and reform support systems. 

The 61-year-old managing partner of prominent law firm SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan said the lack of court workers is the main reason for the delays in rendering judgment.

“It is because the courts are undermanned,” said Morales. “In the judiciary, about 25% of vacancies have not been filled up.”

To combat this, he suggested an “upward adjustment of salaries of judges,” which Morales feels can attract more applicants and would “further enhance” the independence of the judiciary.

Morales also felt strongly about the Supreme Court’s financial situation, saying he would work for an increase in share of the judiciary in the national budget.

He called the 1% that the judiciary currently receives as “scandalous,” it being a third branch of government. His plan for a higher budget is reflective of APJR’s goal to reform the judiciary through funds form the national government, the court’s, and outside development partners.

On the impeachment of dismissed chief justice Renato Corona, Morales said the process had eroded the Supreme Court’s credibility, and that it is necessary to fix that immediately.

“It is time to restore that credibility,” he said. “And the first step the President should do is appoint an outsider.”

He said a chief justice without integrity would make it continuously difficult for Filipinos to trust the High Court, emphasizing that moral fitness was on top of his list of things to offer — especially after Corona was unseated for being judged as morally unfit to head the High Tribunal.

“I’ll be bringing no baggages with me, no strings attached,” he said. “I bring a fresh and impartial approach to the judicial process.”

Morales was the second candidate questioned about the chief justice post Wednesday morning, July 25, on the second day of the Judicial and Bar Council interviews of possible candidates.-

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